Saturday, March 31, 2007

About My Self-Portrait

I have now twice been asked in emails about the self portrait that I use on this blog (look over in the sidebar -- it's right at the top), so I figure perhaps it is worth answering here in case anyone else is curious.

The picture is a photo I took of myself in a mirror altered through the Perception Laboratory's Face Transformer, which you can play with by clicking the link. It's a little java script that transforms faces in uploaded photos. Most of the settings are about changing the race, sex or age of the subject, but a few adopt certain artistic styles -- the available ones are Botticelli, Modigliani, El Greco and then "manga cartoon" (as a general style). There's also a "drunk" setting and an "ape-man" setting that makes a sort of Planet-of-the-Apes like picture. The picture I use of myself was transformed with their program using the "manga" setting.

Frankly, the results from the transformer are hit-and-miss -- and far more often miss than hit. Most of the race/sex/age transformations aren't remotely convincing, although occasionally you get one that's not half bad. The artistic ones are fun -- but most of the results come out looking fairly similar: the base photo is often largely obscured by the transformation. (You can see why if you upload something that isn't a face and try the transformations on it.) But sometimes it works -- the right photo with the right setting can produce a fun result. It's certainly a lot of fun to play with -- a great time waster. I liked the manga version of that image of me -- I thought it looked almost like an actual manga drawing -- so I use it.

If you're interested, a larger version of the same picture can be seen here -- but I think that the close-up actually doesn't work as well: the seams show. (A commentator on the site where the larger photo is hosted said that it's "the most frightening flipping thing I have ever seen.") So just as a general effect the smaller one works better. But the larger one is interesting if you're curious about how the transformer works, since you can see the original image under the transformation.

Unrelated Afterthought: While I'm engaging in meta-blogging, I'll note that, with this post, March 2007 has just tied July 2006 as the months in which I've posted the most entries: 20 each. (My average over the lifetime of the blog is 11-12 a month.) And the latter included four posts which were just posting someone else's writing -- letters from my sister-in-law, from when she was trapped in Beirut during the July War. (On the other hand, last July the posts that I did write included several of my favorite posts to date.)

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